Make Masks at Home

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions new crisis guidelines to health care workers says that where no face masks are available, homemade masks, made of bandannas or scarves, for instance, can be used as a last resort That’s how desperate they are, that they said that. Livingston says. Cloth masks aren’t ideal. A 2015 study of over 1,000 healthcare workers in Hanoi, Vietnam, found that those who were assigned to wear cloth masks were more likely to get a respiratory virus than those who wore medical masks, made of thick fibers that catch a range of particles. That study appeared in BMJ Open.

The mask needs to strike a balance between filtering capabilities and breath ability. Some materials, such as vacuum bags, are better at filtering than others, a 2013 study in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness suggests. But vacuum bags are hard to breathe through. Cotton T-shirts offer a breathable fabric that filtered microorganisms roughly half as well as a surgical mask in those experiments.  Other work-around focus on 3-D printing, which can churn out hard, clear face shields that protect health care workers eyes and possibly extend the life of face mask. That’s what the Qualcomm Institute at the University of California, San Diego is attempting to do. Improvised visors with some 3D-printed parts seem the most feasible say engineer Ramesh Rao, the institute’s director.

Get creative

In response to the JAMA editorials call for ideas, several health care workers suggested scuba masks. There is durable enough to be sterilized, they protect the eyes, nose and mouth, and best of all, they channel air through a small tube that a filter can be placed in. Why not Livingston says. It makes sense. Livingston and colleagues are digging through the ideas, talking with experts and hoping to update people with guidance soon. But for now, I don’t think anyone can say what’s right or wrong. He says. People need to do their best.

Other suggestions include heat, chemical disinfectants and ultraviolet light. At the University of Nebraska Medical Center, health care workers hang up strings of used masks in a room with two UV light towers. After a treatment of about five minutes, the masks are ready to be used again. The approach is experimental, and it’s not clear whether multiple rounds of UV light damages the masks.


They used an instrument called a Porta Count to measure how well the masks filtered out air particles, ranging from 20 nanometers to 1,000 nanometers, according to NPR. (For context, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is about 60 to 140 nanometers in diameter).